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Digital Archive International History Declassified

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Korean War Origins, 1945-1950

 This collection of primary source documents sheds light on the question of "who started the Korean War?" For more coverage of the Korean War on the Digital Archive, see the collections: Korean War, 1950-1953; Korean War Armistice; China and the Korean War; and Korean War Biological Warfare Allegations. For a collections resource guide see The Korean War: Collections & Resources on DigitalArchive.org. (Image: Anti-Trusteeship Campaign. December 1945.)

  • January 03, 1947

    Central Intelligence Group, ORE 5/1, 'The Situation in Korea'

    An intelligence report about both North and South Korea. The report explains what the situation currently is and what is projected to happen with Soviet and American interaction with their respective Koreas.

  • May 12, 1947

    Cable No. 121973, Meretskov and Shytkov to Cde. Stalin

    A request to send Soviet specialists to North Korea. The DPRK especially needs engineers to help them build railways. Shtykov notes that if the Koreans don’t receive aid from the Soviets, they'll turn to the Americans.

  • October 12, 1947

    Incoming Cable No. 16, Malik to Cde. Stalin

    Stalin agrees to Malik's proposal regarding the situation in Korea, which calls for the creation of an All-Korean Temporary Assembly to resolve the peninsula's issues. The Soviet representative is to insist to the Americans that such a consultative body be established.

  • October 18, 1947

    Ciphered Telegram, Molotov to Cde. Stalin

    Molotov reports his answers to several questions from Vyshinsky: he advises not to be so contentious with Marshall on private questions. On the Korean issues, Vyshinsky should remind the Americans about the terms of the December agreements calling for a united, democratic Korea and that Marshall's new proposals at the UN constitute a violation of these agreements. He approves Vyshinsky's position on the veto and the peace and security committee.

  • October 20, 1947

    Ciphered Telegram, Molotov to Cde. Stalin

    Molotov relates how the Americans have rejected the Soviet position toward establishing a temporary all Korean assembly. While there is some overlap between both positions, this issue has now been exacerbated by Marshall's move to decide it in the UNGA. The Soviets should respond to this move by reiterating their commitment to a self-determined form of government for Korea, which requires the Soviets and Americans to withdraw their troops.

  • October 23, 1947

    Draft of Telegram to Vyshinsky on the Korean Question

    Vyshinsky is instructed that, because the Korean issue is already on the UNSC agenda, it should remain there. Vyshinsky should stake out a position that both American and Soviet troops withdraw simultaneously, allowing the Koreans to develop a unified government. Elected representatives from both Koreas should be invited to discussions. A time span for the troop withdrawals must be set. The draft includes some scrawled recommendations from Stalin.

  • October 29, 1947

    Telegram No. 293, V. Molotov to Cde. Stalin

    Molotov writes that Vyshinsky must insist on the Koreans being invited to any discussion on removing foreign troops from Korea. If opposition to such participation holds, the Soviets should abstain from voting on the matter out of principle.

  • October 29, 1947

    Telegram No. 418 from Vyshinsky

    Vyshinsky outlines the amendment that the US has introduced regarding the Korean question. Moreover, Vyshinsky asserts the plan to object to the amendment and express why the amendment is not compatible with the proposal of the Soviets.

  • December 18, 1947

    Central Intelligence Agency, ORE-62, 'Implementation of Soviet Objectives in Korea'

    The CIA analyzes Soviet policy in northern Korea, claiming that it seeks to create a satellite state.

  • March 18, 1948

    Central Intelligence Agency, ORE 15/48, 'The Current Situation in Korea'

    An intelligence report about both North and South Korea. The report explains what the situation currently is and what is projected to happen with Soviet and American interaction with their respective Koreas.

  • July 11, 1948

    Record of Conversation between Kim Gu and Liu Yuwan

    Kim Gu (Kim Koo) and the Chinese Nationalist Minister Liu Yuwan discuss Kim's participation in the South Korean government, his attendance at a conference in Pyongyang, and the possibility of a Russian-led attack on southern Korea.

  • July 12, 1948

    Memo of the Directorate for Foreign Relations of the USSR Armed Forces General Staff about the Results of a Conference of Leaders of the Political Parties and Organizations of North and South Korea

    The statement describes the conference which took place in Pyongyang from June 29 to July 5. The main goal of the conference was to discuss the separate elections held in South Korea and possibilities for the unification of Korea. The North Korean representatives considered the National Assembly formed in South Korea to be illegitimate and urged for the expulsion of foreign powers in order to achieve a unified Korea.

  • October 22, 1948

    Telephone Message via VCh, Kim Il Sung to Generalissimo Iosif Vissarionovich Stalin

    Kim praises Stalin and the USSR for its role in securing Korean independence and in negotiating with the Americans on the Korean issue

  • 1949

    The Korean Government Delegation's Visit to Moscow (Korean Version)

    A report on a trip to Moscow made by a Korean government delegation, including information on what the delegation has seen and the conclusion of treaties with the Soviet Union on the economy, culture and technical assistance.

  • 1949

    Report on the 164th and the 166th Division

    The history and basic information on the 164th and the 166th Divisions of the People's Liberation Army, or the divisions composed mainly of ethnic Koreans.

  • March, 1949

    Soviet-Korean Protocol about Temporarily Leaving Soviet Navy Subunits in the Port of Chongjin

    List of agreements between the two governments that state that the USSR will leave some of their navy forces in the port of Chongjin, and that the DPRK will provide the necessary housing and facilities for the troops. Troops will be excused from customs and those working for the troops can move across borders with documents decided by both the USSR and DPRK.

  • March 05, 1949

    Notes of the Conversation between Comrade I.V. Stalin and a Governmental Delegation from the Democratic People's Republic of Korea headed by Kim Il Sung

    Kim Il Sung and Stalin discuss the military and economy in North Korea, Soviet-North Korean relations, and North Korea's relations with other foreign countries.

  • March 11, 1949

    Note, V. Molotov to Cde. Stalin

    The Soviet Commission on Korea prepared an official agreement between the USSR and DPRK, which gives the DPRK credit to purchase Soviet military equipment and materials.

  • March 16, 1949

    National Security Council Report, NSC 8/1, 'The Position of the United States with Respect to Korea'

    Report by the National Security Council to the President on US policy objectives regarding Korea.

  • March 17, 1949

    Agreement between the Government of the USSR and the Government of the DPRK regarding Extending a Loan by the Soviet Union to the Government of the DPRK to Pay for Equipment and Materials as Well as the Military Property Supplied to Korea

    Agreement between the government of the Soviet Union and the government of the DPRK to grant the Republic of Korea a loan to pay for the supplied equipment and materials, as well as military equipment.